Dental Dictionary

To better assist you, we would like to provide this dental dictionary of common terms you may hear during your visit. For additional information on any of these topics, please ask our dental team.

A

abutment – one of the two natural teeth used to support both ends of a bridge

ADA – American Dental Association, a professional organization for dentists in the United States

adult teeth – the second and final set of 32 teeth that replace the baby teeth, also called the permanent teeth

air abrasion – a procedure to remove small areas of decay, done using a dental tool which blasts air and abrasive particles at the tooth

amalgam – a mixture of metals used to make fillings

appliance – any dental device

arch – the curved structure of the teeth in each jaw

autoclave – a machine designed to sterilize dental instruments using steam and pressure

B

baby teeth – the first set of 20 teeth, also called the primary teeth

bicuspid – one of the 8 pointed teeth between the canines and the molars used for grinding food, also called a premolar

bite – the physical alignment of the chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed

bleaching – a procedure to make the teeth appear whiter, generally done using hydrogen peroxide

bonding – a procedure to repair the shape of a tooth, generally done using resin

braces – orthodontic devices used to reposition teeth over time to correct improper alignment

bridge – a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth that attaches to the adjacent natural teeth

bruxism – involuntary grinding of the teeth during sleep

C

calculus – hardened plaque buildup on the teeth, also called tartar

canine – one of the 4 pointed teeth between the incisors and the premolars used for cutting food, also called a cuspid or an eyetooth

caries – a medical term for cavities

cavitron – a dental tool designed to gently remove plaque and tartar from the teeth using inaudible sound waves

cavity – a section of missing tooth structure caused by decay

cementum – the hard exterior tissue of the tooth located under the gums that covers the dentin

cleaning – a preventative care procedure done to remove plaque, stains, and tartar from the teeth

cleft palate – an opening in the roof of the mouth that is present at birth and requires surgery to repair

cosmetic dentist – a dentist who specializes in procedures used to improve the appearance of teeth

cosmetic dentistry – the branch of dentistry specializing in procedures used to improve the appearance of teeth

crossbite – an orthodontic issue where some of the lower teeth extend beyond the upper teeth

crown – the portion of the tooth located above the gums; additionally, a porcelain or zirconia restoration that either covers the portion of the tooth located above the gums, or attaches to an implant to replace a missing tooth

cusp – any pointed portion on the chewing surface of the tooth

cuspid – one of the 4 pointed teeth between the incisors and the premolars used for cutting food, also called a canine or an eyetooth

D

dam – a latex barrier used to isolate part of the mouth from saliva and potential contaminants during dental treatment

DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery, a medical degree equivalent to DMD

decay – damage to tooth structure caused by bacteria buildup

dentin – the hard interior tissue of the tooth located under the cementum and enamel that forms the bulk of the tooth structure

dentist – a medical professional with either a DDS or DMD degree such as Dr. Taylor, concerned with the prevention and treatment of diseases of the teeth and other structures within the mouth

dentistry – the medical field concerned with the prevention and treatment of diseases of the teeth and other structures within the mouth

dentition – a collective term for all teeth within the mouth

denture – a fixed or removable prosthetic replacement for multiple missing teeth

DMD – Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry, a medical degree equivalent to DDS

dry socket – painful inflammation of the tooth socket after an extraction, generally caused by loss of the blood clot over the socket

E

enamel – the hard exterior tissue of the tooth located above the gums that covers the dentin

endodontics – the branch of dentistry specializing in care and treatment of the tooth pulp

endodontist – a dentist who specializes in care and treatment of the tooth pulp

erupted tooth – a tooth that has fully emerged from the gums into the mouth

extraction – a surgical procedure to remove a tooth

eyetooth – one of the 4 pointed teeth between the incisors and the premolars used for cutting food, also called a canine or a cuspid

F

filling – a porcelain or resin restoration bonded to a damaged tooth to repair structure lost due to a cavity

fixed denture – a prosthetic replacement for multiple missing teeth that attaches to either implants or the adjacent natural teeth and is not removable by the patient

fluoride – a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay

frenectomy – a surgical procedure to remove or reshape the frenum, generally done to improve function and mobility

frenum – the thin muscle tissue that attaches the cheeks, lips, and tongue within the mouth

full denture – a fixed or removable prosthetic replacement for multiple missing teeth, used when there are no natural teeth remaining in the jaw

G

gingiva – the soft tissue supporting and surrounding the teeth within the mouth, also called the gums

gingivitis – a mild inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup

gum disease – a severe inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup, also called periodontal disease

gums – the soft tissue supporting and surrounding the teeth within the mouth, also called the gingiva

H

halitosis – chronic bad breath, generally caused by poor oral hygiene

hygienist – a licensed dental professional who performs cleanings and provides education on oral health

I

impacted tooth – a tooth that is partially or fully unable to erupt and remains embedded in the gums or wedged against a bone or another tooth

implant – a prosthetic tooth root that attaches to the jawbone, used to hold certain restorations in place

impression – an imprint of the teeth used to create models, generally made with a digital scanner

incisor – one of the 8 sharp teeth between the canines in the front of the jaw, used for cutting food

inlay – a type of filling fabricated in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a damaged tooth to repair structure lost due to a cavity

intraoral – pertaining to the inside of the mouth

intraoral camera – a camera designed to photograph the teeth and the inside of the mouth for diagnostic purposes

J

jaw – a common term for either the mandible (lower jaw) or maxilla (upper jaw)

K

keeper – any dental device used to keep something in position

L

local anesthetic – a numbing agent administered via injection, used to reduce or eliminate pain during treatment

M

malocclusion – the improper physical alignment of the chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth

mandible – the lower jaw

maxilla – the upper jaw

molar – one of the 12 flat teeth behind the premolars in the rear of the jaw, used for grinding food

mouth guard – a custom dental appliance generally used to protect the mouth and teeth while playing sports

N

night guard – a custom dental appliance used to protect the teeth from involuntary grinding during sleep

nitrous oxide – an odorless inhalant gas that has a mild sedative effect

O

onlay – a type of filling fabricated in a dental laboratory and then bonded to a damaged tooth to repair structure lost due to a cavity

oral – pertaining to the mouth

oral hygiene – the establishment and maintenance of activities designed to keep the mouth and teeth clean and healthy

orthodontics – the branch of dentistry specializing in procedures used to correct misalignment of the teeth and jaw

orthodontist – a dentist who specializes in procedures used to correct misalignment of the teeth and jaw

overbite – an orthodontic issue where the upper teeth extend significantly beyond the lower teeth

P

palate – the roof of the mouth

partial denture – a fixed or removable prosthetic replacement for multiple missing teeth, used when there are still natural teeth remaining in the jaw

pediatric dentist – a dentist who specializes in care and treatment of children and adolescents

pediatric dentistry – the branch of dentistry specializing in care and treatment of children and adolescents

periodontal disease – a severe inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup, also called gum disease

periodontics – the branch of dentistry specializing in care and treatment of the gums

periodontist – a dentist who specializes in care and treatment of the gums

permanent teeth – the second and final set of 32 teeth that replace the primary teeth, also called the adult teeth

planing – a procedure to treat periodontal disease, involving a professional deep cleaning of the tooth roots to remove tartar below the gums

plaque – a colorless and sticky accumulation of bacteria on the teeth

pocket – an opening between a tooth and the gums caused by periodontal disease

post – a thin rod implanted in the tooth root after root canal treatment to provide structural support for the tooth

premolar – one of the 8 pointed teeth between the canines and the molars used for grinding food, also called a bicuspid

preventative care – dental care designed to promote good oral hygiene and prevent oral health issues

primary teeth – the first set of 20 teeth, also called the baby teeth

prophylaxis – a professional cleaning done to remove plaque, stains, and tartar from the teeth

prosthesis – an artificial replacement for a missing tooth or other body part

prosthodontics – the branch of dentistry specializing in prosthetic tooth replacement

prosthodontist – a dentist who specializes in prosthetic tooth replacement

pulp – the network of blood vessels and nerve tissue in the center of the tooth

Q

quadrant – one of the 4 equal sections of the mouth, specifically the top right, top left, bottom right, and bottom left

R

recession – shrinkage of the gums and subsequent exposure of the tooth roots caused by periodontal disease

reimplantation – a surgical procedure to reinsert a tooth into its socket after trauma-related tooth loss

relining – a procedure to resurface a removable denture on the side facing the gums, done to correct issues with its fit

removable denture – a prosthetic replacement for multiple missing teeth that is removable by the patient

resin – a material used to make fillings

retainer – a device used to maintain the position of the teeth after orthodontic treatment to ensure their alignment remains correct

root – the portion of the tooth located in the socket below the gums

root canal – the hollow portion of the tooth root that contains the tooth pulp; additionally, a surgical procedure to treat disease or injury of the root canal, done by removing the tooth pulp and replacing it with inert material

S

scaling – a procedure to treat periodontal disease, involving a professional deep cleaning done to remove plaque, stains, and tartar from the teeth

sealant – a thin coating applied to the chewing surface of a molar to help prevent decay

T

tartar – hardened plaque buildup on the teeth, also called calculus

temporary – a restoration placed for short-term use during the time necessary to fabricate a permanent restoration

temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – the connecting hinge between the lower jaw and the base of the skull

temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) – chronic jaw pain or tension, generally caused by involuntary grinding of the teeth during sleep

topical anesthetic – a numbing agent administered via application, used to prepare an area of the mouth for an injection of local anesthetic

treatment plan – a set of procedures recommended by a dentist to address the oral health concerns of a patient

U

ultrasonic cleaning – a professional cleaning using a dental tool that generates inaudible sound waves, done to remove plaque, stains, and tartar from the teeth

underbite – an orthodontic issue where all of the lower teeth extend beyond the upper teeth

unerupted tooth – a tooth that has not yet emerged from the gums into the mouth

V

veneer – a thin tooth-colored porcelain covering bonded to the front surface of a tooth to improve its appearance

W

wax pattern – a wax template that models a dental restoration for fabrication purposes

whitening – any bleaching or non-bleaching procedure done to make the teeth appear whiter

wisdom tooth – one of the 4 molars in the very back of the jaw used for grinding food, which generally erupt in young adulthood

X

x-ray – an image of bone and tooth structure produced through exposure to radiation

Y

Try as we might, we haven’t been able to come up with a dental term starting with Y. If you’re a current patient and can think of one, then your next cup of coffee is on us! Please contact us here with your term and we will send a gift card to the first valid submission received. If you have found this offer, we are still looking for a winner!

Z

zirconia – a type of ceramic used to fabricate dental restorations